Berghall says one issue often faced by users is that smaller room acoustics are different from those of lecture halls and ballrooms, but often volume is deemed more important than intelligible speech. When volume increases, speech is often distorted – listen to any airport public address system. Something is being said, but what? He adds that this scenario becomes a problem with younger listeners who don’t yet have an extensive vocabulary. Unlike adults who can fill in the blanks to construct meaning, children can face problems with comprehension, which can cause frustration.
Ease of use is extremely important when there will be various people using these audio systems. Califone’s Ridgway says that after their Infrared Audio system is installed, it is laid out so that the functions that will be used regularly – microphone volume or audio input—are readily accessible. “There are simple directions printed right onto the control box.”
As Ridgway notes, end users can save money when installing a voice enhancement system because they typically require only two speakers, not four as might be required with public address systems.
Berghall says even greater savings can come from reduced employee sick days. “Vocal strain for teachers is a major issue,” he says, adding that these medical problems can typically be eliminated by speaking naturally.
Several new trends in the market include the increased use of wireless technologies in concert with these systems say vendors. There is also, according to Ridgway, increased user interest in integrating teleconferencing applications, such as Skype, with voice projection systems.
Q&A with David A. Chambers, senior vice president of Sales Bogen Communications
Linda Daily Paulson: What are the best practices for using this product?
David A. Chambers: For users, one of the most important practices is not over-amplifying. The concept of classroom audio is that the subtleties of the teacher’s voice/speech are easily heard by the class, the greater intelligibility resulting in better hearing, comprehension, and therefore learning. Many forget that a system of this type, when used ideally, is there not as a PA system in a concert/entertainment event, but to simply make all the nuances of speech more audible. Depending upon classroom acoustics, ambient noise, and speaker placement, if some attempt to turn a classroom audio system up too high, they will hear slight ringing and possibly feedback, and defeat the purpose of such a system.
LD: What are the issues a user might encounter?
DC: Our system allows the user to program certain operational variables and the user must be aware of these in order to get the proper, desired functions.
LD: What are some budget savers you discovered?
DC: If a classroom audio system is seldom, if ever used for audio from A/V devices (projector, DVD, BluRay, etc.), the system’s speakers are critical to good audio reproduction. However, if not, given the fact that the desired effect of such a system is simply reinforcing the teacher’s voice, higher quality speakers are a budget item that can be spared, with conventional/less expensive speakers fitting the bill.
Also, some systems on the market are less expensive by virtue of the fact that they are one piece — speaker/receiver/controls all in one box, which typically sits on a desk at the front of the class, or gets mounted to a wall. Because the speaker(s) are built-in, and no ceiling speakers need to be mounted, these systems are less expensive from both and equipment and installation labor cost. These one-piece systems are typically less effective than multiple ceiling speaker systems, but appeal to the cost-conscious customer.
LD: Are there any top trends in the industry?
DC: Overriding the enhancement system when a PA announcement is made is a growing trend and almost universally desired by schools. Also, using the enhancement system to amplify audio from classroom audio sources is growing.